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TARSUS (Ταρσός: Eth.Ταρσηνός or Eth. Ταρσεύς). sometimes also called Tarsi (Ταρσοί), Tersus Τερσός), Tharsus (Θαρσός), or Ταρσὸς πρὸς τῷ Κύδνῳ, to distinguish it from other places of the same name [p. 2.1106]was the chief city of Cilicia, and one of the most important places in all Asia Minor. It was situated in a most fertile and productive plain, on both sides of the river Cydnus, which, at a distance of 70 stadia from the city, flowed into a lagoon called Rhegma or Rhegmi. This lagoon formed the port of Tarsus, and was connected with the sea. The situation of the city was most favourable, for the river was navigable up to Tarsus, and several of the most important roads of Cilicia met there. Its foundation is ascribed to Sardanapalus, the Assyrian king, and the very name of the city seems to indicate its Semitic origin. But the Greeks claimed the honour of having colonised the place at a very early period; and, among the many stories related by them about the colonisation of Tarsus, the one adopted by Strabo (xiv. p.673; comp. Steph. B. sub voce ascribes the foundation to Argives who with Triptolemus arrived there in search of Io. The first really historical mention of Tarsus occurs in the Anabasis of Xenophon, who describes it as a great and wealthy city, situated in an extensive and fertile plain at the foot of the passes of Mount Taurus leading into Cappadocia and Lycaonia. (Anab. 1.2.23, &c.) The city then contained the palace of Syennesis, king of Cilicia, but virtually a satrap of Persia, and an equivocal ally of Cyrus when he marched against his brother Artaxerxes. When Cyrus arrived at Tarsus, the city was for a time given up to plunder, the troops of Cyrus being exasperated at the loss sustained by a detachment of Cilicians in crossing the mountains. Cyrus then concluded a treaty with Syennesis, and remained at Tarsus for 20 days. In the time of Alexander we no longer hear of kings; but a Persian satrap resided at Tarsus, who fled before the young conqueror and left the city, which surrendered to the Macedonians without resistance. Alexander himself was detained there in consequence of a dangerous fever brought on by bathing in the Cydnus. (Arrian, Arr. Anab. 2.4; Curt. 3.5.) After the time of Alexander, Tarsus with the rest of Cilicia belonged to the empire of the Seleucidae, except during the short period when it was connected with Egypt under the second and third Ptolemy. Pompey delivered Tarsus and Cilicia from the dominion of the eastern despots, by making the country a Roman province. Notwithstanding this, Tarsus in the war between Caesar and Pompey sided with the former, who on this account honoured it with a personal visit, in consequence of which the Tarsians changed the name of their city into Juliopolis. (Caes. B. Alex. 66; D. C. 47.24; Flor. 4.2.) Cassius afterwards punished the city for this attachment to Caesar by ordering it to be plundered, but M. Antony rewarded it with municipal freedom and exemption from taxes. It is well known how Antony received Cleopatra at Tarsus when that queen sailed up the Cydnus in a magnificent vessel in the disguise of Aphrodite. Augustus subsequently increased the favours previously bestowed upon Tarsus, which on coins is called a “libera civitas.” During the first centuries of the empire Tarsus was a place of great importance to the Romans in their campaigns against the Parthians and Persians. The emperor Tacitus, his brother Florian, and Maximinus and Julian died at Tarsus, and Julian was buried in one of its suburbs. It continued to be an opulent town until it fell into the hands of the Saracens. It was, however, taken from them in the second half of the 10th century by the emperor Nicephorus, but was soon after again restored to them, and has remained in their hands ever since. The town still exists under the name of Tersoos, and though greatly reduced, it is still the chief town of that part of Karamania. Few important remains of antiquity are now to be seen there, but the country around it is as delightful and as productive as ever.

Tarsus was not only a great commercial city, but at the same time a great seat of learning and philosophy, and Strabo (xiv. p.673, &c.) gives a long list of eminent men in philosophy and literature who added to its lustre; but none of them is more illustrious than the Apostle Paul, who belonged to one of the many Jewish families settled at Tarsus. (Acts, 10.30, 11.30, xv, 22, 41, 21.39; comp. Ptol. 5.8.7; Diod. 14.20; Hierocl. p. 704; Stadiasm. Mar. M. § 156; Leake, Asia Minor, p. 214; Russegger, Reisen in Asien, 1.1. p. 395, foll., 2. p. 639, foll.)

Another town of the name of Tarsus is said to have existed in Bithynia (Steph. B. sub voce but nothing is known about it.



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